From Expatriate to Repatriate: My Life Abroad and Realizing What Family Meant for Me

by Anna Alapatt

I grew up in a small sport centric town in Connecticut to a mixed race family. My father was from India, and my mother was the third generation from Ukrainian and Lithuanian immigrants. My town was predominately white, which always made me feel uncomfortable as a child. On top of that, my parents were just different than most of the families in our area. They were artists and so were their friends. When people came over it was dinner party discussions about books or musicians while eating international cuisine. My life at home consisted of taking violin lessons and summarizing New York Times articles for my dad.

Most of my friends growing up did normal American things that definitely weren’t the norm at my house. So I always felt reluctant to invite my friends over in fear that they would laugh at my family eating Indian food with our hands or at my violin perched in the corner of my room. I can still remember coming home from school crying and wishing that my father could be white too. I have all my school drawings with my mother, father, and myself all with blonde hair which will always remind me of how desperate I was to fit in when I was younger. Back then, I didn’t feel like I fit in with my family. I felt completely awkward and out of place.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get away from my town and my family. I literally counted down the years until I was going to leave for college. That day came when I was 18 and left for school in Washington, D.C. where I went to an international college. Being in such a cosmopolitan city made me feel like I fit in. I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and started to see that the way my parents raised me actually helped me in many ways. Having the space from my family was one of the first times I truly appreciated everything they had done for me.

It was always a dream of mine to travel and live abroad and my family was totally supportive. In 2009 I studied abroad in London. Since that time in London I’ve been on an international adventure. I lived in Dubai where I worked as a flight attendant, and currently I am living in Germany. The past seven years have been a complete adventure! But, over the past few years something has really changed. I started to feel more homesick. When you are living abroad, it isn’t always easy to get home, especially for holidays. I can still remember my first Christmas I spent away from my family. I spent it with friends, but went home and cried. The second and third Christmas I missed was easier, although I still felt the pain. But, it wasn’t just Christmas I missed. It was all the events, and little things that happen on a day to day basis. As the years passed, I longed for days where I could be closer to my family instead of being separated by an ocean.

Last year, something happened that made it clear that it was time to go back home to my family. In 2015 I started to notice that my hearing was worse in one ear than another. I thought perhaps it was just some sort of blockage in my ear, but when I went to the doctor to find out I got news I wasn’t expecting. I found out I had an ear disease that made me lose half my hearing in my right ear. The doctor told me most likely this will spread to my other ear at some point as well. He advised that there is a surgery I can do, but that there are major risks involved including losing my hearing completely. I remember leaving the doctor’s office and feeling numb. All I wanted at that point was to be able to hug someone from my family and I knew that wasn’t going to be possible. It was one of the lowest points in my life.

At that moment, I just wanted to jump on a plane and head back to my family. My life abroad no longer seemed so glamorous or exciting. It was clear to me at that point that I had to find a way back home. I knew it was the time. Well, for many reasons, I couldn’t just jump on the plane and go to my family. But, now, almost a year later I am about to take that next step. I have a flight booked from Germany to the USA in September of this year. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am about this decision.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on my life and sort of laugh about this full circle journey I’ve been through. As a child, all I wanted was to get away from my family and town. Now, as an adult, all I want is to get back to them. My time abroad has made me realize how important family is, and made me truly appreciate everything they have done for me. Right now there seems like nothing greater than being in their presence and taking comfort in their love. I’ve been around the world and I know now that there is no place I’d rather be than at my parents’ dining room table eating international cuisine and discussing the topic of the night.

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Anna has her B.A. in psychology and would name Carl Jung as her favorite psychologist. She is originally from the United States, but has lived most of her 20s abroad in England, Germany, and Dubai. Currently you can find her in Germany where she works part time as an English teacher. The rest of her time she blogs about love, personal development, and travel.

Images provided by the author.